I’ve had my struggles with cake layers. They always come out domed and I always trim off less dome than they really need, which means slidey cake, drooping frosting, and all around MESS.
To remedy this, I’ve read about using cake strips (strips that wrap around the pan and magically create flat layers) or baking the cake at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. I think I’ve also heard something about baking soda. But I’ve never had the patience to wait EXTRA long for a cake to bake and I’ve never been willing to shell out $12 for two strips of metallic material. This is a good thing!
Because it turns out that you can make your own cake strips for FREE! And it’s so easy. Because here’s what cake strips do: they cool the outside of the pan so the cake bakes evenly. So all you really need is wet material wrapped around the pan.
Let’s talk cake science for a sec: normally when cake layers bake, the outside of the cake bakes faster than the middle. By the time the middle starts to cook through, the batter has nowhere to go but up, which creates the dome. By putting moist material around the outside of the pan, you’re helping cool the outside, allowing the cake to bake more evenly.
What you’ll need for DIY cake strips:
- scrap material (an old T-shirt or kitchen towel will work fabulously)
- safety pins
Cut the scrap material into a strips long enough to fit around your cake pan. I only used one strip, but you can use several—more coverage is not a bad thing. Safety pin the ends of the strip together. When you’re ready to bake the cake, run the material under water and squeeze out so that it’s as wet as possible without dripping. Replace the strip around the pan and bake!
Note: the first time I did this, I lazily tied my band of cloth into a knot instead of cutting to the right length and safety-pinning the ends. I think this caused a dimple in the cake:
Not a huge deal, but if you want a perfect layer, don’t do that.
And now for some close ups for those of you thinking: does it really make a difference?
I also dropped my cake pans on the counter a few times before baking. This helps spread the batter evenly and get rid of air bubbles. And really annoy your neighbors. (By the way! I think I got new ones. Neighbors, I mean. In my apartment complex, my balcony faces the balcony on the opposite building. So the new couple were out having a cute dinner on their bench the other night while I spent the entire time crouching on my balcony 50 feet away photographing this cake. I’m embarrassing.)
But at least I got a cake that looked like this:
Which I would have shared.
They were just too far away.
Thank you to this lovely, humble blog for sharing this fabulous trick! I will be dismembering T-shirts and baking super flat cakes for decades to come.